Now that 500 laps at Martinsville are in books, let us reflect on the race that was.
In my weekend preview column, I recommended the polesitter (Joey Logano), who put up an OK total of 32.25 as my top high-cost pick. Second behind him was Denny Hamlin, starting eighth, who is a multiple-time Martinsville winner.
Well, one trip to the wall later, his day was over.
Meanwhile, starting seventh, beside Hamlin, was Kyle Busch, who we knew going into Martinsville tends to lead tons of laps and put up a gigantic number. That was Busch, who led 352 laps (the most by a Martinsville race winner since 1998) for 180.5 points — nearly 100 more than any other driver in the field.
At least I recommended Austin Dillon as a great low-cost play. Starting 29th and finishing fourth is good for 66.5 points, if you’re keeping track at home. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re keeping track at home.
Now it’s time to move forward to the first Saturday night race of the season, going 500 miles at the fast, 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. This will be the third race on a 1.5-mile track this season, and although all have their own nuances, we can draw a lot of conclusions that will help everybody work as one big, happy family.
Last November in the last Cup race at Texas, Brad Keselowski put a beatdown on the field (much like we saw last Sunday) to the tune of 312 of 334 laps led for 166 fantasy points. Well, in terms of fantasy points. Keselowski finished second behind Jimmie Johnson, but Johnson scored 105 fewer points. The spring race was more widespread in terms of points.
2014 had a similar story. Johnson dominated the fall race (191 laps led), but the spring race had a more even distribution of points. In 2013, Johnson dominated the fall, while Busch and Martin Truex Jr. split most of the laps in the spring.
I’m going to look for a handful of drivers to put up some numbers. Here are my five picks to get you started on the week.
I’m starting my team with:
It’s easy to see Jimmie Johnson’s three straight wins and say I’m going to take him in fantasy. But in NASCAR, the finish position often tells an incomplete story. An example is November’s Texas race. Keselowski dominated (as you might’ve read earlier in this column), but Johnson emerged victorious.
Johnson’s other recent wins at the track (he has won five of the past seven races) were dominant affairs in which he led at least 128 laps in each. The fastest laps are there nearly every race as well, with at least 13 in each of the past eight races here and at least 34 in six of those.
Keep an eye on these four:
Brad Keselowski: Don’t count on Keselowski leading another 312 laps for 166 points (though if he’s on my roster, I would certainly not turn that down). It’s a two-man breakaway recently at Texas, with Keselowski averaging 86.5 fantasy points per race over the past seven races at the track, Johnson at 79.2 and third-most (Kyle Busch) at 56.8. Keselowski is more than just Texas, though. He has finished ninth or better in the past 15 1.5-mile races, and he won at Las Vegas earlier this year.
Kurt Busch: His brother, Kyle, is quite strong at Texas, but I need to get away from giving you only the highest-cost drivers. Busch is generally in the lower tier of the highest value, and much like Keselowski, Kurt has shown great consistency on the 1.5-mile tracks, with 10 straight top 10s, including a pole in both races this year (with 99 laps led in those races).
Jamie McMurray: McMurray has given us three straight top 10s at Texas (and a top-18 finish in seven of the past eight races there), but his advantage is that he usually starts a little deeper in the field. In the past three races, he has improved his starting spot a combined 37 points. McMurray’s value is totally determined by his qualifying position. In his past dozen races on 1.5-mile tracks, he has finished between sixth and 21st, but he has qualified everywhere from second (got four points) and 30th (got 51.5 points).
Brian Vickers: This is Vickers’ last scheduled race in the No. 14 car, and though you can’t project a driver’s motivation, he’s coming off a solid run at Martinsville in which he drove in the top 10 most of the day and regularly competed for a top-five spot. Vickers has a great recent history at Texas too, especially considering what he’ll cost. He has run only three races at Texas going back to 2012, but he has averaged 43.7 DraftKings points per race, which ranks him seventh among all drivers.